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162 TO THE LIGHTHOUSEhad the builders. Attended with the creaking ofhinges and the screeching of bolts, the slamming andbanging of damp-swollen woodwork, some rustylaborious birth seemed to be taking place, as thewomen, stooping, rising, groaning, singing, slappedand slammed, upstairs now, now down in the cellars.Oh, they said, the work!

They drank their tea in the bedroom sometimes, orin the study; breaking off work at midday with thesmudge on their faces, and their old hands claspedand cramped with the broom handles. Flopped onchairs they contemplated now the magnificent con-quest over taps and bath; now the more arduous,more partial triumph over long rows of books, blackas ravens once, now white-stained, breeding palemushrooms and secreting furtive spiders. Oncemore, as she felt the tea warm in her, the telescopefitted itself to Mrs McNab’s eyes, and in a ring oflight she saw the old gentleman, lean as a rake,wagging his head, as she came up with the washing,talking to himself, she supposed, on the lawn. Henever noticed her. Some said he was dead; somesaid she was dead. Which was it? Mrs Bastdidn’t know for certain either. The young gentle-man was dead. That she was sure. She had readhis name in the papers.

There was the cook now, Mildred, Marian, somesuch name as that—a red-headed woman, quick-tempered like all her sort, but kind, too, if you knewthe way with her. Many a laugh they had had

together. She saved a plate of soup for Maggie; a

bite of ham, sometimes; whatever was over. They

lived well in those days. They had everything they